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Public Safety Workers and Their Use of High Visibility Clothing

In January 2006, The Federal Highway Administration published the most recent Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (The MUTCD). This MUTCD revision accepted and coded into law for the first time the ANSI 107-1999 High Visibility Apparel Standard “or subsequent revisions”. The acceptance of the ANSI 107-2004 Standard (the current revision) in the MUTCD was a distinct advancement for highway workers. However for “Public Safety Workers” such as Police, Fire, State Patrol, Emergency Personnel, and other “First Responders” the circumstances and use of High Visibility Apparel on the job was unclear. Many Public Safety workers were exempted from using high visibility apparel, and/or were only partially covered by the ANSI 107 standard and the MUTCD.

In 2006 the Federal Highway Administration announced in a written statement that effective November 2008; ALL workers working on any highway that received federal funds must wear high visibility ANSI apparel. This new rule now included all Public Safety personnel such as law enforcement, emergency workers, Fire, EMS, public maintenance, utility crews, and “First Responders”. This new requirement applied when performing duties of directing traffic, investigating crashes, handling lane closures, clearing obstructed roadways, and all other disasters within the right of way of federal highways. For practical purposes, any Public Safety Workers on any highway that received federal funds are required to use either ANSI 107 OR ANSI 207 High Visibility Apparel.

The ANSI 207 vs 107 Standard
Public Safety Workers acknowledged the risks of on-the-job traffic accidents related to visibility. However, there was also an understanding that competing hazards such as heat/flame exposure for Fire Departments, use of stealth and/or weapons by law enforcement, and fire/chemical/electrical exposure in emergencies required judgment in the use of High Visibility Apparel. In addition, nontraditional colors were needed such as Police Blue, EMS White, Fire Red, to differentiate Public Safety Personnel from Highway workers. The ISEA, working in conjunction with select “Public Safety” organizations, began work on a new consensus standard. The result was the publication of the ANSI 207 Public Safety High Visibility Standard, a consensus approved by the canvas method and published in late 2006.

The ANSI 207-2006 accepted as “Best Practices” much of the High Visibility Apparel criteria as defined by the already published ANSI 107-2004 standard for workers exposed to traffic. ANSI 107-2004 definitions of fluorescent fabrics, retro-reflective tapes, 3rd party independent tests of both fabrics and reflectives for color fastness, cleaning, tear, abrasion, flexing, temperature variation, care labels, marking, labels, bursting strength, reflective photometric and Physical Performance Requirements apply to the ANSI 207-2006 standard as well. In all the Technical Requirements, the ANSI 107-2004 American National Standard for High Visibility Safety Apparel; and ANSI 207-2006, American National Standard for High Visibility Public Safety are nearly identical.

The ANSI 207 - 2006 Standard
The major difference between the ANSI 107 Highway Workers Standard and the ANSI 207 Public Safety Standard is garment design; ANSI 207 Class 2 has less (450 sq inches) of background fabric and recommends a 5 point break-away design. Law enforcement could now combine Police Blue fabrics with fluorescent orange or yellow fabrics. Fire Service could use traditional orange, red or yellow fabrics; but may also need “Fire Resistant” fabrics per the (NFPA 701) and or (ASTM F-1506) standards as the primary danger may be fire. EMS personnel traditionally used white. Finally the National Incident Management System (NIMS) encouraged the use of color coding response personnel and/or the use of ID panels. The result is new vest designs that combine non-traditional color fabrics with traditional fluorescent fabrics to create entirely new designs for “Public Safety” and “First Responders” Some of these designs are “One Size Fits Most” to allow for variation in personnel likely to wear these vests in an emergency. Clear and Velcro removable ID panels allow for fast changes in assignments during Incident Management. Velcro 5-Point “Break-away” sides and shoulder designs on select products provide an extra level of safety. Taken together, the new ANSI 207-2006 standard allows “Public Safety” personnel to maintain their identity as First Responders while using High Visibility Apparel.

HiVis Supply offers a variety of Public Safety vests; as well as Incident Command vests. Visit us online to view our selection of ANSI/ISEA 207-2006 approved vests; as well as other high visibility clothing.

The above article is courtesy of Vinatronic’s Technical Brief: ANSI/ISEA 207-2006. HiVis Supply is an authorized distributor of Vinatronics high visibility apparel. All Vinatronics apparel is made in the USA.

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